I remember the first time I went to see a doctor about my mental health…
Erin Dunn, Administrator, VOICES
I remember the first time I went to see a doctor about my mental health. I’d always been somebody who got quite anxious, so I’d never really thought anything of it. However, this time something really wasn’t right. Stress and frustration had become to consume me to the point I was having panic attacks. I was starting to frighten myself and was unpleasant to be around.
I had a chat with my mum, and she advised me to make an appointment with my GP. I remember feeling sick with worry, the thought of having to talk to somebody about my feelings petrified me. I hid how I felt behind jokes as I couldn’t bear to open up properly. What if I was laughed at? What if the things I was worrying about weren’t significant enough? Regardless of these feelings I went to see my GP; they reassured me that I wasn’t being silly, and that I had an anxiety disorder. I was prescribed some beta-blockers and referred to CBT. I left the doctor’s surgery feeling like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I felt proud of myself for being honest about how I was feeling. I got home and called my boyfriend at the time to let him know how I’d got on. He didn’t want to talk about it.
Over the weeks following this I tried to speak to him on numerous occasions but he wasn’t having any of it. Eventually he said “I don’t want you to talk to me about it. You’re making me feel uncomfortable”. And so I stopped. I stopped talking to him about it. I stopped talking to anyone about it. I stopped taking my medication and I never made the phone call to arrange my CBT. Unsurprisingly, we broke up a few months later.
Even though it had been my decision it still had an impact on me. I spiraled into self-destruct, going out most nights and getting blackout drunk became my coping mechanism.
I was just having fun though.
All my friends had behaved like this during their breakups, and they were fine so of course I would be too. Only I wasn’t fine, I was far from it. My mental health deteriorated and once again I found myself on the phone to my mum, a sobbing anxious mess. I was having trouble sleeping, my mind was in overdrive and all sorts of dark thoughts were manifesting. But there she was again, my voice of reason, reassuring me it was okay to feel down and encouraging me to call my GP. I saw the doctor, he nodded along politely and wrote me a prescription for beta-blockers and anti-depressants. He also advised me to defer my third year at university and wrote a letter to my PAT (personal academic tutor) explaining why I was unfit to continue the year. I had a short meeting with her, she told me I didn’t look sad, and then I never saw or heard from her again.
I continued to battle with my mental health for six years, towards the end of 2016 I was the unhappiest I had ever been. I was working stupid hours in a job that I had grown to loathe. I was drinking alone and heavily, most nights. I would lie to people about how much I was drinking because I didn’t want to admit that it was becoming a problem, but my anxiety was so bad it had become the only way I could sleep at night. Again, I went back to see a doctor. She upped my dosage of anti-depressants, signed me off from work and told me I wasn’t to go back there. I moved back home a month or so after that.
Living back with my mum helped me regain stability, the excessive drinking stopped and my mental health began improving. I began volunteering with VOICES which helped me find my confidence once again. I started to believe in myself, the outgoing person I used to be slowly shone through the self-doubt. The encouragement and support I have received from VOICES has been amazing. I now work here fulltime, I am out of a career that I hated and I’m finally part of something that I am incredibly passionate about. I still get feelings of anxiety from time to time, only now I know how to manage them better and I’m not afraid to talk about my mental health.